The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there….
Jane has had a very rough life. She isn't sure why she is receiving a scholarship to the prestigious Birch Grove school for girls. Of course, I wondered this, too. The headmistress (Mrs. Radcliffe) and her family are nothing if not odd. I was very intrigued to find out what they were "hiding". They were obviously hiding something and I think it was this mystery that kept me interested in the book. Lucian and Jacob Radcliffe are both unique, but I had a hard time remotely liking Lucian. He was a jerk and I did not like the relationship he had with Jane. I hope that young girls reading this book realize that is not how someone should treat you and you should not be in a relationship like Lucian and Jane's!
I understood more once I found out what was going on with the Radcliffe family and then things honestly started to lag a bit. The middle of the book was a let down for me, but I'm glad I kept reading because it picked back up towards the end.
Overall, I liked the book. I think it teaches us a very valuable lesson on abusive relationships (or at least I hope that comes through) and I really would have liked to see Jane be a bit stronger towards Lucian. A good read though, and I loved the mystery of it!
The beginning was intriguing, yet I found it a bit off. It was very disjointed. This changes after several chapters, and then I was on board for Dark Companion. The lack of information readers are given really inspired me to keep reading, I couldn’t wait to figure out what would happen and what this whole eerie set up would lead to. Yet, I found the set up to be a bit off, some things just didn't quite make sense.
Things were going great for a while, and then I hit the middle of the book. For me, a lot of this was like the car crash you just can’t look away from. I had so many issues with the morals of the middle of the book and the totally abusive relationship going on. There was a really cool dark gothic aspect, but that as well almost just gave me the creeps. I felt it was definitely more along the lines of paranormal as opposed to “gothic”.
The end was interesting, and got slightly better after the huge expanse of the middle, but I still wasn’t quite satisfied with it. It felt like it ended too abruptly, after this huge story, it didn’t feel it could just end the way it did.
The characters were all really lovely. Jane was a great character, but she did have her weaknesses and despite being so book smart and street smart, she has no boy smarts. She has a perfectly great guy rooting for her, and instead she goes for the other and it’s totally abusive. I loved Mary Violet, Hattie and the other girls – they had such charm and I would just love to have friends like them. Mary Violet was just too funny; she was always up to some shenanigans. I loved Jack from the first page he walked onto the page. He was adorable, charming, and just so obviously healthy and good for Jane.
I absolutely love Dark Companion's cover – I think it’s gorgeous and I love that it ties into the book. Basically, Dark Companion was a really interesting book, but it wasn't necessarily the best book for me. I would be interested from seeing more from Marta Acosta in the future though.
I truly loved this book. I went into the book with all kinds of expectations, got in a few pages, and threw all those expectations out. The Dark Companion was not paranormal but much more Gothic-isque. The Gothic influences all throughout the book added a new dimension of awesome to the book. The book was a wonderful equal parts creepy, equal parts alluring. I was held in its grip for a few days as I grew to truly empathize with the choices that Jane was facing. If I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking about the book. The book was merveilleux which is French for amazeballs.
One of the biggest strengths of this book was the awesome set of characters living within the pages. Mary Violet is one of Jane's new friends at Birch Grove, and I seriously wish I could find a Mary Violet in my life. She's vibrant and gorgeous in her own quirky way, and she is always there for a good laugh. I loved the way she talked because she was this fascinating combination of surreal and realistic all at the same time. Jack was fantastic, and I loved the huge contrast between who Jack is and who his brother Lucky is. The story had so many interesting parallels and gorgeous contrast among the characters. No wonder I couldn't put it down.
As the story progresses, Jane has to start making some very difficult decisions. I love how the book makes you think. Would you have done the same thing if you were offered so much in exchange for taking on a role for the rest of your life? Taken from Jane's perspective where she had grown up with almost nothing, that question becomes even more complicated.
Don't go into this book expecting vampire paranormal. Vampire fanatics would just end up a little disappointed. The beauty and treasure of this book is just how fresh and Gothic the story is. There is just that tint of paranormal flushing through the pages to keep it just a little fresher.
I am thrilled that I requested this book. It was an incredible reading experience.
Who Should Read It: Lovers of creepy meets realism. I know you are out there. Really if you just like a well-spun story. Don't pay attention to the ratings on this book. There is just so much conflicting ideas on this book. That is why it is up to you to figure it out for yourself. Enjoy.
From reviews that I've read, I know that some readers found much of this book quite boring, but that was not the case for me. So long as the writing is beautiful and the characters vibrant, a slow pace does not put me off a novel the slightest bit. Acosta's writing really resonated with me, striking a perfect gothic tone that matched the quotes from classics included at the beginning of each chapter while also maintaining a modern flair.
The only thing I wasn't a huge fan of in the writing was some of the slang, which I felt went too far and entered the realm of the absurd. If there was a name that could be made into a swear word, that happened, like with these: Charlotte becomes harlot, Pritchard becomes Bitchard, and Helmsdale becomes Hellsdale. Thankfully, this trailed off as the book continued but it was really overused at first. Acosta also came up with other lingo for these characters, like using coitus as a swear word, going so far even to change OMFG into OMCG. I get it, but am not amused.
Jane also speaks and thinks in a very particular manner, using as many pretentious words as she can. This will likely alienate some readers, but I liked it, because, well, I'm a snob like that. Plus, Jane does that as a method of studying, which fits her perfectly, because she do desperately wants to escape her tragic past (group home, scars, best friend in prostitution, other best friend dead of meningitis).
Jane, through her own determination and hard work, manages to obtain a scholarship to the fancy schmancy Birch Grove Academy for Girls, which helps her obtain emancipation as well so that she can escape the horrid group home in which she was living. She leaves Hellsdale and heads to Greenwood for school. At first, everything seems to good to be true. No, really. This school would not exist. She gets there and the headmistress Mrs. Radcliffe (nice reference btws) shows her to her PERSONAL COTTAGE to live in BY HERSELF and takes her shopping to BUY HER ALL OF THE CLOTHES. No school would do this; she would at least have to share the cottage with one other girl. It had a full kitchen and everything! Also, Jane went back to the mall later, returned a bunch of clothes, and got money back. Why let Radcliffe by those clothes for her if she didn't want them? That was weird to me.
In case you're concerned about the fact that Jane's going to a girl's school, because that means there are limited sexy boy options, don't worry. Conveniently, Mrs. Radcliffe just happens to have two hot sons, one a junior like Jane, Lucian aka Lucky, and one two years older, Jack. As you may have guessed, a hot mess of a love triangle ensues. A lot of the things that happened in the love triangle-y part upset me, mostly because Lucian was a little shit and Jane's self-esteem issues make me want to shake some sense into her. Still, Acosta did manage to wrap things up nicely and she does write fabulous kissing scenes.
Several of her characters really mattered to me. Jane, dear plain, outspoken Jane, mousie Jane. I could not help but see her as a sort of Jane Eyre figure, with her unloved childhood, her fear that no one shall ever care for her, her vast intelligence, her determination, her strength in a crisis, and her stern perception of her own qualities. Needless to say, I loved her most of the time. Jack, of course, is scruffy and adorable, if, admittedly, a bit frustrating at times. Mary Violet, or MV, turned out to be a surprise favorite of mine, with her love for anything violet, even to the detriment of her grades when she refuses to turn in papers in anything but her trademark violet ink, and her ridiculous explanations for what foreign phrases mean. Though somewhat annoying, MV is a true friend, and I love finding those in YA novels.
The paranormal elements in Dark Companion are blessedly minor. They are important, yes, but they don't take over the story. In fact, the story feels as though it's mostly set in the natural world, a bit more magical realism than straight up fantasy. Not only that, but she did some really cool things with the paranormal bits she used, putting nice spins on some overused ideas.
The conclusion, admittedly, is not as strong as it perhaps should have been. It feels a bit rushed and overly optimistic, pairing characters up like the ark's about to sail. I didn't mark down for this rather cheesy conclusion, though, because of all of the Shakespeare references woven throughout. The ending just tells you that Dark Companion is a comedy, not a tragedy. I'm a sucker for Shakespeare references.
Though not a perfect read, I thoroughly delighted in every bit of Dark Companion. This is a good read for those who appreciate literary references and a gothic feel.
Jane Williams doesn't remember anything before the age of six. The only life she remembers is going from foster and foster in the town of Helmsdale (aka Hellsdale, known for being a living hell). So when she gets a scholarship to Birch Grove Academy...
You can image that she was quite happy.
When there she immediately gets of interest of the headmitress and meets the headmitress's son's.
Lucian (aka Lucky)- Who is very attractive and "nice".
Jack- Who is sarcastic and doesn't seem to like Jane very much.
But things aren't what they seem...
A past susicide and the scholarship student before her that went off to see a mysterious uncle leave Jane wondering...
What else is going on at Birch Grove Academy?
You see the people of the town where Birch Grove Academy resides aren't exactly normal.
They are very pale.
They have strange secretive meetings in hooded clothing.
And they drink blood.
Now, I know what you're thinking.
But they're not actually vampires. It's actually some weird genetic mutation that causes them to be like vampires. And the guys each get their own Companion, who is basically a girl that they can let all of they're blood lust unleashed on.
And Jane is meant to be Lucky's Companion.
Now, let's go on to another topic shall we!
Another thing that'a irking is the way that the story was told.
It was told in a way that the main focus was Jane, Lucky, and the blood. There were other important things! But what happened was that something would happen in the beginning, you'd forget about it, then at the end it suddenly shows up again!
For example: At one point Jane catches someone messing with her locker. She chases after them but they disapear!
This probably wasn't brought up again until around page 300.
I found this book weird and I obviously didn't like it.
But most people have liked this book so if you wish to, give it a try!